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How Can Sports Streaming Surpass Broadcast and Cable?

The first measure of sports streaming success is replicating the cable/broadcast experience, but Julie Neenan Souza, Head of Sports, Global Professional Services, AWS, insists that sports streamers should be aiming higher when it comes to leveraging streaming’s core strengths, from interactivity to betting to personalization to live ecommerce. Meanwhile, Chance Mason, VP Global GTM Strategy, ViewLift contends that the key to next-level sports streaming delivery is streaming infrastructure companies like AWS embracing their emerging role as D2C media companies and partnering with sports leagues and sports rights holders at that level. Souza, Mason, and Matt Del Percio, Partner, Altman Solon, discuss these and other emerging opportunities for sports streaming in this clip from Streaming Media Connect 2024.

Del Percio asks the group, “What are you seeing happening in the streaming sports space on both the consumer and on the supply side?”

Souza says the industry has done a good job of turning the internet into cable. However, that approach still does not even come close to reaching the value proposition of the native capabilities of streaming platforms. First, she says, there should be many more dynamic ways to monetize the data of sports fans. She also says that there are subscription models that have not been capitalized on anywhere nearly as much as possible, such as micropayments, which would allow viewers to pay for specific games they want to watch. “I don't think we need to just adopt a single subscription model because that's the way it's been done and that we're also borrowing from cable,” she says. “And then think about all of the things that we do on a second screen when we're watching a live sporting event. I am chatting with my friend. I am doing all these other things that should be built into the live-streaming experience. So I should be able to choose my camera angle, choose my audio feed, choose my level of augmentation. Do I want a Prime Vision stats overlay? Do I want some sort of Snapchat filter on what I'm watching? Do I want the Big City Greens or the Toy Story or whatever version of this game? Can I follow my fantasy stats? Can I buy tickets to the next game? Can I buy my favorite player’s jersey? Can I order Uber Eats 20 minutes before halftime, take a poll place, make a real money bet, all of these things? Can we start building a much more robust, interactive, engaging, and personalized viewing experience? That is one step away from the Holy Grail for me.”

Souza offers further examples of heightened engagement for sports streaming viewers. “If I'm watching an NBA game, I want to be prompted for prop bets. Anytime somebody's on the free throw line, I want all my fantasy stats updated in an L-bar. Definitely prompt me to order Uber Eats 20 minutes before halftime and open a chat thread to talk smack with my friends. And then we're going from what has historically been a fairly passive viewing experience into much more of an active viewing experience because you're engaged with your content.”

Mason agrees with Souza’s call for increased live user engagement and emphasizes the importance of personalization. “Whether I follow five different leagues, three different leagues, whatever it may be, my experience has to be personalized because there's just too much noise around everything that's going on,” he says. “You're going to need fan engagement tools. Unique interactions, people that like the same player, people that like the same teams, those kinds of things. But there's just so much content out there. Personalization will be the key to keeping the viewer sticky to the content.”

Mason also says that from the provider's perspective, the role of technology in enabling real-time data and stats for teams and coaches is essential, along with addressing the challenges of balancing innovation with consumer affordability. “If you look at it from the provider standpoint, that's where the technology is available,” he says. “AWS is doing some amazing things with AI. When you look at the NFL, you get to the Thursday broadcast on Prime, and you have multiple options to consume from. However, is a lot of that technology available for the teams and the coaches so that they can make real-time decisions based on real-time data and stats? Or does a consumer want to see that as an overlay, as a part of their entertainment experience? I think that's yet to be seen, and if there's a demographic that goes one way or another. It's two different lenses, and we have got to make sure that the cost of the lens for the provider doesn't get pushed down to the consumer where there isn't the ability to aggregate and get access to different content from other leagues or teams, to where we get to the point where we're spending so much money on that. For the consumer, prices are rising. They're introducing new business models like AVOD because they can't increase price ranges. So the prices can't continue to rise year-over-year or because we're pushing innovation. There has got to be a balance between innovation and in what the consumer can accept.”

Souza asks Mason, “To the extent that you allow that personalization functionality, doesn't it give a little bit more ammunition to tiered structures? So, the people who want to do the deep dives or have a certain level of personalization, maybe they're willing to pay more for it, but you're not necessarily putting that burden on the entire base?”

Mason says sports rights costs are the biggest barrier to the tiered structure approach. “There's a league you can watch on four different platforms, and it's Monday at one place. Maybe it's Thursday at another place, maybe it's Sunday at another place. And the consumer's very confused,” he says. “This is just a maturity curve. And entertainment companies are shifting to direct-to-consumer companies that were just gone producers before. Infrastructure providers like AWS are now media and entertainment companies. You can develop virtual production studios like Monumental Sports. They not only have ownership of multiple teams, but they built a studio. They bought a Regional Sports Network (RSN), and now they're an entertainment company. They have a linear channel. They have all their sports teams under one umbrella. They built a state-of-the-art studio. The Utah Jazz doing the same thing. And so they're becoming their own media entertainment companies.”

See videos of the full program from Streaming Media Connect February 2024 here.

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